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Tim O'Brien

What do you think about the fact that the Harry Ransom Center is home to your works?

I'm comforted by the knowledge that my papers are in the custody of an institution that so enthusiastically values the written word. It's an honor. It's a relief. And, sure, it's a little sad, too—the way a happy memory from one's youth might also be sad, if only because it is a memory.

When visiting the Ransom Center's website what would you want to explore?

As a kid of ten or eleven, I came across a story called "Rain" by W. Somerset Maugham. Much of it perplexed me, and parts frightened me, yet the tale caused me to imagine putting my own marks on a piece of paper. Who knows what about the story so enthralled me? Maybe its exotic South Seas setting, maybe its relentlessly oppressive imagery, maybe its strange and twisted cast of characters, maybe its account of an unfathomable adult world of sex and self-righteousness and religious zealotry and hypocrisy and betrayal. Until now I hadn't thought about "Rain" in many, many years. But a few minutes ago, when I encountered Maugham's name on a list of writers whose papers are housed at the Ransom Center, I was also startled to encounter an awe-struck, daydreaming little boy I used to know.

If someone isn't entirely familiar with your work where would you suggest that they begin?

Perhaps start with a novel called In the Lake of the Woods, or a story titled "The Lives of the Dead," which appears as the concluding chapter in The Things They Carried.

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Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien. © Marion Ettlinger.

Writers Reflect
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Read about the acquisition of O'Brien's archive.

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View some of the materials from O'Brien's archive.

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Listen to Tim O'Brien discuss his collection.

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Other Writers Reflect

Sebastian Barry

Jim Crace

Alan Furst

Tim O'Brien